As we head into fall, we compound our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with the onset of flu season. Influenza and COVID-19 are both very contagious respiratory illnesses caused by two different viruses: influenza and coronavirus. Because flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms, it is difficult to tell the difference between them and testing may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. Both flu and COVID-19 can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. They are both highly contagious and can be life threatening for certain populations, especially individuals with underlying medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, pregnant women, etc.).


  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite


  • Change in or loss of taste or smell

While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, a lot is unknown.

Compounding our fight against the flu and coronavirus this time of year are the common cold and gastrointestinal (GI) viruses. These viruses may have similar symptoms to flu and COVID-19. Colds typically include a clear, runny nose, sneezing, and cough. Symptoms usually last three to seven days and tend to develop more gradually and are typically less severe. GI symptoms—vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite—may occur in tandem with flu or other viruses.

Diligent care to protect yourself from flu and COVID-19

Experts warn that it is likely both flu and COVID-19 will spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating patients with flu, COVID-19, as well as seasonal viruses. While there currently is not a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, there is one available for flu. A seasonal flu shot in early fall is the best way to protect against the flu.

Your provider’s office, walk-in clinics and many local pharmacies offer the flu vaccine.

In addition to vaccination, follow these tips to avoid getting flu or COVID-19.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Wear a face covering when out in public.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.

Focus on keeping your immune system strong by eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough sleep every night.

If you have flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and isolate yourself from others. The Island Hospital Respiratory Clinic is open every day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for evaluation and testing of respiratory illnesses. Appointments are required. Call (360) 293-3101.



Vola LeRoux, FNP-C is a family nurse practitioner in Fidalgo Medical Associates. LeRoux holds a master’s degree from Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri. She enjoys working in primary care and educating patients about health maintenance and health-disease prevention. For more information or to make an appointment with LeRoux, call (360) 293-3101. 

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Published on October 30, 2020